A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab : what is this fabulousness, and where has it been?

How a book can have absolutely no flaws is beyond me.


Guys, look: I don’t know if saying what I’m about to say will make me seem a lenient reviewer or a harsh one, but I will say it nonetheless: In my head, I have a.. checklist, let’s say. It’s specific. For the characters and their development, for the pacing, for the writing style, I expect so and so. Is it hard to check off one thing at a time? Yes. Yes it is.

But once my expectations are met, the book wins my heart instantly. Simple as that.

Did ADSOM meet your ridiculously high expectations, Nina? you ask. Yes. Yes. And yes.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to drop my pretense of calm and SCREAM ABOUT HOW MUCH I LOVE ADSOM BECAUSE NO BOOK HAS THE RIGHT TO BE THIS PERFECT.

ADSOM, you have rewritten the rules. AND I LIKE THAT.

This book felt like it was written with me in mind. Starting with.. the genre.
I know I’ve made it no obscure fact that perhaps my all-time favorite genre is high fantasy. I don’t know why, but maps of other worlds appeal to this tiny hidden part of Nina here that aspires to be a geographer? Maybe?? (Even though I despise geography with the entirety of my soul, so I don’t know where liking ANY types of maps comes from.)

And, in addition to my one true love that is high fantasy, I adore historical fiction. Or better yet, historical fantasy.

And so, ADSOM managed to combine my two favorite genres (because, the way I see it, Grey London is historical fantasy, and the rest of the Londons are high fantasy) into one big chunk of customized perfection that is tailored to fit me and look flawless.

Additionally, I like my books fast-paced (who doesn’t??) BUT I need some time to get to know the characters before they’re thrust into immediate danger (and this is such a common mistake that authors make, I notice (see: An Ember in the Ashes): the first chapters are pure adrenaline and our hero or heroine are running for their lives, and as amazing as action sequences can be, I feel like it is more important to start slow, get your reader to actually CARE about your characters, then start to threaten to cut off their fingers or stab them or what-have-you.)

So, as I was saying before I was RUDELY interrupted by my mini monologue there, the action is done right.

[So, what do we have so far? Ah. Two checks off my mental list.]

Up next: characters. *takes deep breath*

Where do I even begin? They might be my favorite part of the book. Watch:

KELL. Oh. My. GOD. Kell might just be the sweetest, most caring, most gentlemanly character I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. SERIOUSLY. (And I’m surprising myself because I’m usually VERY picky when it comes to male leads, and I have pretty high standards [because, um, there’s always Kaz Brekker to compare to, and most male leads lose that battle *shrugs innocently*]). But Kell? KELL STOLE MY HEART. And I love how he’s sometimes kinda arrogant and haughty, but that just adds a whole other layer to his personality. And he’s always ready with a sharp comeback and OH MY GOD KELL IS EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING, I SAY.

Lila is something else entirely. I love her fiery attitude, strong will, and her demanding personality. As far as antiheroines go, she’s definitely in that extreme area. And this is why some don’t like her? I mean, I like her, I do, but I see how she could get on other people’s nerves. BUT I LOVE LILA. And I love her banter with Kell because both have the tendency to want to have the last word when they argue and THE RESULT IS HILARIOUS.

Rhy is funny?? and charmingly sweet?? And his relationship with Kell might just be the BEST sibling relationship I’ve read about in a long time. BUT I WANT MORE RHY because he’s not that prominent in this one.

I’ll stop there for the characters. (No no wait: I also really like how Schwab includes other, non-main POVs that, and listen closely now, ADD IMMEDIATELY TO THE STORY. Guys. Guyyys. Do you know how annoying it is to completely divert the plot line into a subplot of a side character or villain that, in the end, contribute exactly 0.00001% to the storyline?? (I’m looking at you, Maggie Stiefvater). But bringing in side POVs like Schwab did? Genius (this is similar to how Leigh Bardugo employs the side POVs [like Joost, for instance], to expand the storyline and the world building, not detract from it).

So, as I was saying, Schwab pulled the side POVs off fabulously to, again, expand the storyline, not detract from it.

What else is there to talk about? Ah. Writing.

The writing style is flexible. Quotable. Effortless. It feels focused and determined to bring the story across as efficiently as possible. And did it succeed? I’m going to answer that with a big fat YES. (Did I just quote Jesper? I think I quoted Jesper)

Can you tell how much I love this book? Dude, even the COVER is amazing.

HOW. How can one book have no flaws? EXPLAIN YOURSELF, ADSOM.

I think I’m going to stop here. But guys. Please. Do me a favor: if you haven’t started this one yet? DO. You won’t regret it.

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